With fifteen days down, the halfway point has officially been reached. Aside from feeling a lot better physically and mentally, there have been a few side effects I never could have guessed would rear their ugly heads.
I guess when you've drank with impunity for as long as I have, and have bought a dog from a crack dealer after becoming an honorary Crip member for 24 hours, nothing really comes as much of a shock anymore — that is, except for when you STOP drinking and face reality.
Look up "alcohol withdrawals" and the symptoms can range from shaky hands, sweating, and headaches all the way up to seizures, delirium, and even death.
I drink a lot; not "Amy Winehouse a lot" and certainly not enough to cause any of that nonsense, so I really wasn't expecting anything to happen. However, these are some observations and the side effects I've faced in the past two weeks.
1. Finding Out Who Your Real Friends Are
The first week was met with much disbelief from friends and family alike.
When I told them I was quitting alcohol for 30 days, they sort of nervously laughed, waiting in anticipation for a famous Don P punch line and for me to reveal "the real Challenge for the month." After a long, awkward moment of silence that's usually reserved for when your mom grabs your teacher's crotch, they responded with a genuinely surprised, "Wow. Really?! Why?"
Most of my friends "got it" after a brief explanation, but then there were others who took outright offense or who slyly tried to sabotage the process by tempting me to drink. That's when I realized that certain groups of friends are, in fact, just drinking buddies and getting shitfaced is really all we have in common.
That's fine though, especially when I've built a reputation around enjoying and advocating alcohol consumption to the max, regardless of the situation or consequences. And I'm sure those people and I will be hanging out again after this challenge is complete, but God forbid if I ever took sobriety seriously enough to make this a permanent lifestyle change.
2. Actually Having Dreams at Night
For a lot of hardcore drinkers, "going to sleep" and "passing out" pretty much mean the same thing. I don't usually get black-out-pass-out-where-you-fall type of drunk, but more nights than not I go to bed with a good, deep buzz from a bottle of wine or 6-pack of beer.
Science will tell you that alcohol when used as a sleep aid suppresses REM sleep, thus inhibiting the entire process of dreaming. But when that booze intake disappeared, my brain became more active at bedtime and that's when the fun started.
Vivid dreams — such as using Verne Troyer as a javelin or arm wrestling Tiki Barber for a copy of Mortal Kombat on VHS — have become so common they're almost expected now. Nighttime has now become the most frightening and exhilarating time in my life.
3. Filling the Empty Void
For the first week after giving up alcohol, I didn't know what to do. I'm so used to a routine of "drinking and ... ," that when you take away the booze from that equation, the "..." part kind of sucks and your forced to fill in the empty space.
Most true alcoholics know the only surefire way to overcome an addiction is to replace it with another addiction. Some will start chain smoking cigarettes, or drinking massive amounts of caffeine, or crying and masturbating to Yanni music constantly, but there are a few who decide to pick up some good habits. They might waddle over to the local gym, sign up for a 5 year membership and start working out three times a week to help control the cravings for sweet, sweet delicious liquor.
And that's where I stand now. I've been faced with an undying desire to take the aforementioned steps and get back to the gym to work out. Mind you, I haven't actually had enough motivation to physically get my ass back there, but the desire is starting to burn a hole in the back of my mind.
4. The Never-ending Hunger
This may come as a shock: Alcohol has calories. Since a good portion of a drinker's caloric intake comes from that bottle, most are able to suppress the appetite.
When I stopped drinking, those hundreds of liquid calories were suddenly subtracted from my body. Now I'm hungrier than ever, mostly after dinner/before bed when the majority of drinking used to occur. So I have to eat food to replace them.
I can tell you when a digestive system used to processing gallons of beer suddenly has pounds of healthy food to digest, it craves more and MORE of the healthy stuff, almost to the point of feeling like you're in a constant state of starvation.